Hello everyone and welcome to the Pack Recap. For the past month, we’ve delved into some of the people responsible for the Packers’ resurgence in the 1990’s. Of course, they did have some help along the way, and some of that talent was already on the team when most of those people arrived. For all the things the regime preceding Wolf and Holmgren did wrong, they did get a couple right. In no case was that more apparent than Sterling Sharpe and LeRoy Butler.
Sharpe was drafted by the Packers in 1988, making an immediate impact on the team. Although born in Chicago, Sharpe lived in Georgia with his grandparents and siblings, including Hall of Fame tight end Shannon. After playing three sports at Glennview High, Sharpe attended the University of South Carolina. Setting career records for touchdowns, receptions, and yards at the school, Sharpe’s number was retired following the 1987 season.
Sharpe quickly matured as a weapon for Green Bay, leading the league in receptions in just his second season. He also set the NFL record for receptions in back to back seasons, while leading the league in yards once and touchdowns twice. Unfortunately, a neck injury would end his career after the 1994 season. Some theorized that he could have been the next Jerry Rice if not for the injury. In fact, Sharpe was so good that his brother Shannon said during his Hall of Fame speech that he was the second best football player in his family and even went so far as to give Sterling the first Super Bowl ring he’d earned. Although he is still waiting for a Pro Football Hall of Fame selection, he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2014.
LeRoy Butler had a little bit of a different path. Growing up in Jacksonville, Butler had physical problems requiring him to wear braces and sometimes use a wheelchair as he underwent therapy. He overcame those problems to become one of the best Florida High School athletes of all time. After graduating from Robert E Lee High School, Butler attended college at FSU, becoming at three year starter. He is most remembered for his time there for the famous Puntrooskie play, in which he was handed the ball and ran for a 78 yard gain to set up the winning score against rival Clemson.
Drafted in 1990 in the second round, Butler became a versatile weapon for the Packers defense. Accumulating numbers which have people arguing for his inclusion in the Hall of Fame, Butler revolutionized the safety position, doing the things Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu did a decade before them. As adept at intercepting passes as he was at sacking quarterbacks, Butler was the first defensive back to accumulate at least 20 sacks and 20 interceptions in a career. A shoulder injury forced his retirement in 2002, but not before he made his mark on Green Bay and the NFL. Butler was also credited with pioneering the Lambeau Leap, one of the most iconic touchdown celebrations in NFL history. Butler was selected as a member of the 1990’s NFL All Decade Team.
Even though Wolf, Holmgren, Favre, and White get the majority of the credit for the Packers’ turnaround, these two players certainly played a crucial role. They were building blocks in place for a team ready to rise.
The author would like to thank the following contributions:
Bryn Swartz writing for Bleacher Report- 2-26-2010
Talk of Fame Network- SI.com- 9-13-2018
Tom Oates writing for Madison.com 1-29-2020
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